MGM // 2009 // 98 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // June 19th, 2009
What she doesn't know could kill her.
Young Philadelphia housewife Jamie Taylor's (Melissa George, 30 Days of Night) seemingly normal existence is about to be turned on its ear. After surviving a car accident, she wakes up in the locked cell of a warehouse, her ribs severely bruised and her 7-year-old son missing. Her captor, identified later as Alek (Oded Fehr, The Mummy), is a brooding menace hiding his face behind a ski mask. Alek claims that Jamie's husband Kevin has been -- all throughout the marriage -- an international heroin smuggler. Now, Alek wants from Kevin the $40 million the latter stole from the powerful crime syndicate both men work for. If Jamie doesn't provide some answers, Alek will be forced to murder her and her son, especially since the leader of the drug enterprise (Alice Krige, Star Trek: First Contact) is heading into town within hours to collect.
Since writing for the Verdict, there have been certain films I've come across which aren't all that memorable (or re-watchable), and yet I come away from them with a certain amount of affection. One such example is The Betrayed. Nothing here is original, really, as the characters are tempered with obvious conflicts and goals, and the story doesn't have enough punch or pizzazz to be worth the fuss. There's only so much a slick presentation can do to mask mediocre storytelling, and unfortunately The Betrayed has few effective layers and even fewer striking twists to make it stand out from others of its ilk. For instance, Jamie's son is a diabetic who requires insulin every once in a while to stay alive and, naturally, the kidnappers use this affliction to their advantage. Plus, it's telegraphed a bit too early that Alek is not really the monster he first appears to be, and something drove him to be as merciless as he is. There are many other elements like this that work against the film's favor. Even at a running time of 98 minutes, this film feels stretched way beyond on its limits, relying on these contrived suspense maneuvers to carry itself to its bang-up climax.
Nevertheless, The Betrayed doesn't end up being a waste of time, and is actually worth a rental if you're looking for a entertaining thriller, even if it's short on style or creativity. The biggest merit is its leading lady, with George proving herself to be a committed actress who boasts more than just a sexy body. If this movie was written or directed by men, then the character would have no doubt been more exposed for exploitative purposes, but this is not the case. The Betrayed is the third feature from writer/director Amanda Gusack (In Memorium), and it's refreshing to see her stick with the story and Jamie's situation rather than go off on tangents for cheap, titillating shock value. The threat of Jamie being raped is a perfect paragon which has been overused to death in countless other thrillers of this nature but handled extremely well here. Plus, even if Gusack's script is routine, she does show some dash behind the camera, particularly in the use of overhead shots.
Going back to George, she really rises above of the norm to deliver a potent performance of a battered woman coming to grips with her predicament. She does an exceptional job of emitting maternal rage and desperation in equal doses, and we end up actually caring for her if not the film itself. George may be known better for her television work on Alias, Grey's Anatomy, and In Treatment, but I sense a bright future in movies for this talented newcomer. Oded Fehr -- -more familiar to audiences as Ardeth Bey in the Mummy movies -- is also quite efficacious as the antagonist, who may be all about cold-blooded business at first but slowly we see his human side begin to show through. It may all be predictable, but Fehr still handles the role well under the circumstances. Finally, it's a real treat to see Alice Krige, who adds panache to anything she's in, no matter how dismal or ordinary it is. My advice is see The Betrayed for the cast, but don't expect to be blown away by anything else.
Never released theatrically, The Betrayed is presented on DVD courtesy of MGM and Twentieth Century Fox home video. However, the latter studio ended up sending us another screener, so I can't exactly adequately describe the final A/V elements. All I can say is the film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic, and there are 5.1 Surround tracks in English & Spanish. There are subtitles in both of those languages, as well as French and English closed captioning. No extras.
The film is found guilty of being pedestrian and trite. However, Gusack and
her fine cast are free to go to work on other projects.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R